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Diagnosed with cancer, doctor donates own cells to science

Posted at 10:26 PM, Dec 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-19 00:44:27-05

CINCINNATI -- "Cancer is a very unique disease," Dr. Elizabeth Panke said Monday. She learned that firsthand.

Panke, a retired pathologist, has studied cancer from inside the disease and out. After overcoming ovarian and uterine cancers in the ‘90s, she devoted the next two decades to researching personalized cancer treatment at Genetica DNA Laboratories. 

When she was diagnosed again -- this time with stage four thyroid cancer that had crept into her lungs and resisted traditional treatment -- she turned again to research.

Panke donated tissue from her unresponsive tumor to Dr. Jochen Lorch of Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Because thyroid cancer is typically non-aggressive, an aggressive sample could prove highly significant.

However, Panke might not benefit from the knowledge Lorch and his colleagues can gain from her tumor. The research method they plan to use involved screening the tumor cells and testing their reactions to drugs that might not have a currently known connection to cancer treatment, but it's a long-term investment of time and effort.

"We have to remember that research takes a lot of resources and a lot of time," she said.